Westchester Drugs and Marijuana Offenses Lawyers: A Helpful Guide for Defendants
Getting charged with a drug or marijuana offense in Westchester County can be an incredibly stressful and frightening experience. The penalties for these types of crimes are severe in New York, and can negatively impact your life for years to come. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side is crucial for trying to achieve the best possible outcome for your unique situation. This article provides a helpful overview of common drug and marijuana charges in Westchester, potential defenses, and how a knowledgeable lawyer can assist you.
Marijuana Possession Charges
Although marijuana policy is rapidly evolving across the U.S., possession of any amount remains illegal in New York. Penalties vary based on the amount you are accused of possessing:
- Possessing up to 25 grams is a violation punishable by a fine of up to $100 for a first offense.
- Between 25 grams and 2 ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 3 months in jail and a $500 fine.
- 2 ounces to 8 ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
- Over 8 ounces all the way up to 10 pounds is a felony punishable by 1-2 years in prison.
If this is not your first marijuana possession offense, penalties increase. There are also enhanced penalties for possessing marijuana in a public place or if you have an existing criminal record.
Many people charged with marijuana possession in Westchester are young people with no prior offenses. An experienced lawyer can often get these charges reduced or dismissed through plea bargaining or diversion programs. For example, adjudication in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) may be available for first-time offenders. This results in charges being dismissed and sealed after a probationary period.
Other Drug Possession Charges
Possession of controlled substances other than marijuana is prosecuted more harshly in New York. Charges are based on the type and amount of drug, and can include:
- 5th degree (Class D felony) – Possessing 500mg of cocaine or 1/8 ounce of heroin. Up to 2.5 years in prison.
- 4th degree (Class C felony) – Possessing 1/8 to 1/2 ounce of cocaine or 1/2 gram to 1 gram of heroin. Up to 5.5 years in prison.
- 3rd degree (Class B felony) – Possessing 1/2 to 2 ounces of cocaine or 1 to 4 grams of heroin. Up to 9 years in prison.
- 2nd degree (Class A-II felony) – Possessing 2 to 8 ounces of cocaine or 4 to 16 grams of heroin. Up to 10 years in prison.
- 1st degree (Class A-I felony) – Possessing 8+ ounces of cocaine or 16+ grams of heroin. Up to 20 years in prison.
Penalties are even more severe for drugs like methamphetamine and can entail large fines in addition to lengthy prison sentences.
Drug Distribution and Trafficking
Selling or distributing illegal drugs leads to much harsher charges than possession. Even small amounts can lead to trafficking charges that carry long mandatory minimum sentences. For example:
- Selling 1 gram of cocaine is a Class B felony punishable by up to 9 years in prison.
- Selling 1/8th ounce of heroin is a Class A-II felony punishable by 8-20 years in prison.
- Acting as a “drug kingpin” by selling large quantities over an extended period is a Class A-I felony punishable by 15-25 years to life in prison.
Common Defenses from a Westchester Drug Crime Lawyer
The most common defenses against drug charges include:
- Illegal search – If drugs were discovered through an unconstitutional search, evidence may be suppressed.
- Misidentified substance – The substance may not actually be an illegal drug. Testing procedures can be faulty.
- Lack of knowledge – You did not knowingly possess the drugs. For example, they were left in your car or home by someone else.
- Entrapment – You were illegally induced by police to commit a drug crime you otherwise would not have.
- Coerced confession – Your admission of guilt was coerced through unethical interrogation techniques.
An experienced Westchester drug crimes lawyer can evaluate the details of your case to determine if any of these defenses may apply.
The Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer
Trying to navigate New York’s complex drug laws on your own is extremely difficult. An attorney knows how to effectively negotiate with prosecutors to seek charge reductions or dismissals. They also know how to construct the strongest defense case if charges are not dropped.
For example, a lawyer may be able to get a felony possession charge reduced to a misdemeanor through a plea bargain. This carries significantly lower penalties and avoids the long-term consequences of a felony record. Even if a plea deal cannot be reached, a lawyer can aggressively defend you at trial.
In addition to their legal expertise and negotiating skills, lawyers have relationships with judges and prosecutors that can greatly help resolve cases as favorably as possible. Do not take chances with your future – consult with an experienced drug crimes attorney in Westchester County as soon as charges are brought against you.
Finding the Right Lawyer for Your Case
If you or a loved one is facing drug charges in Westchester County, it is critical to have an attorney with specific experience handling these types of cases in local courts. Warning signs of an inexperienced lawyer include:
- They take on all types of cases instead of specializing.
- They are unable to provide information on your specific charges.
- They make unrealistic promises about getting charges dropped or dismissed.
- They recommend pleading guilty at your first meeting.
- They do not discuss possible defenses based on the facts of your case.
Look for a lawyer who offers a free consultation, asks detailed questions about your arrest, analyzes potential defenses, explains the plea bargaining process, and discusses their past success with similar Westchester drug cases.
Do not leave your future in the hands of an inexperienced lawyer or delay finding representation. The sooner an attorney can get involved, the better your chances of the best resolution. With severe penalties at stake, investing in an expert drug crimes lawyer is critical.
Getting charged with any drug or marijuana offense in Westchester County can derail your life. New York imposes harsh mandatory minimums even for first-time offenders. Fortunately, an experienced local criminal defense lawyer can thoroughly evaluate your charges and work tirelessly to protect your rights and future. From getting charges reduced or dismissed to building a strong defense if necessary, a lawyer maximizes the chance of the best outcome in your case. Do not go it alone against seasoned prosecutors – get an expert drug crimes attorney on your side immediately.